Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Shane Miller

Date:  July 1, 2011

Only accessible by seaplane or boat, Dry Tortugas National Park lies 70 miles west of Key West, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico and is the home of Fort Jefferson, a Civil War fort/prison.  We took the National Park service ferry, the Yankee Freedom III, which took about 2 hours 15 minutes to go one way. To kill time, Shane and I lay in the bow of the boat watching the turquoise water and seeing lots of flying fish and several dolphins and sharks.

The park’s main island had just enough land to hold the old fort, a small dock and a small beach.  Opened in 1860, the fort was considered a strategic point by the Union to control the Straits of Florida and the Gulf during the Civil War. It was used as a military prison and was abandoned by the Army in 1874.  Fort Jefferson is the largest brick masonry structure in the western hemisphere made of 16 million bricks. It was later used as a refueling station. Dry Tortugas NP also contains six other very small islands and the third largest coral barrier reef in the world.

Shane and I had about four hours to explore the fort. The National Park staff gave us a tour of the fort, explaining the history, the challenges of yellow fever, lack of food and water and of one special prisoner Dr. Samuel Mudd. Dr. Mudd set the broken leg of John Wiles Booth after Booth assassinated President Abe Lincoln. Mudd pleaded innocence but he and three other conspirators where imprisoned here. After treating soldiers and prisoners for yellow fever he was pardoned four years later. After the tour Shane and I went to the small beach and snorkeled. We got nice photos of barracuda and an old chain. I returned to the fort and talked to four National park staff who related many paranormal experiences at the fort.  Alone, since everyone that came on the ferry was on the beach, I walked the dark, quiet halls of the fort talking photos and EFP’s. I captured my best photo every of a ghost down one long hallway (See my separate post Haunted Fort Jefferson).

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